The Woman's Gharana: Social Capital Formation in the Indian Performing Arts

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Seminarraum Geschichte 1 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Amrit SRINIVASAN, Sangeet Natak Akademie, Ministry of Culture, India, India
This paper examines the well-known institution of the gharana through the conceptual lens of social capital in order to bring out the special features of the Indian performing arts and their ‘informal’ contribution to the economy as a whole. Historically, the gharana system drew upon the symbolic discourse of family–based joint house holding systems familiar to the sub-continent, to take on the functions of art education, credentialing and trade organization, producing economic value not only for individuals but for the larger community as well. Bourdieu’s understanding of the titled or powerful family as the ideal typical source of social capital the paper argues, can be extended through the gharana, to include the technically accomplished or skilled family. In the Indian context performing artistes did not belong to the elite but were usually from a lower even despised section of society, needing patronage and protection from the king.

Even under the modern state, cultural capital remained embedded in the informal service economy. The training organization of the traditional performing arts of India did not fall under the purview of westernised, English education. The methods of transmission of musical techniques in the gharana remained oral, from senior generation to the younger, embedded in an overall context of eating and living together under the same roof. This privileged the social capital born of communication and participation amongst members of the same gharana.But by that same token, it kept non-initiates out.

It would be wrong however to view the gharana system as made up of mutually exclusive guilds, which jealously guarded their techniques as monopolies and were mistrustful of all others. The paper will take up with examples, the significant role played by women in “bridging” and “bonding” to create networks, making the gharana’s capacity for social capital unique.